Introduction to Fulldome – attention producers!

Welcome to a different type of video production: Fulldome.

This page was originally created as a guideline for the New West Evolving Art and Music Organization producers, but but will be useful as an introduction by everyone.
What is NWEAMO?
” Founded in 1998, the New West Evolving Art and Music Organization is an all-volunteer non-profit org. dedicated to the promotion of music that involves the creative use of computers and electronics, and to the development of a diverse community of electro-acoustic composers and performers throughout the world.”

DOn't miss this concert on both March 22 and 23 of 2014

New West Evolving Art and Music Organization

NWEAMO was held at 2 venues in 2014.
On March 22nd, the performance was at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Hillcrest.

This concert featured the amazing Peripeteticus (Geoffrey Burleson – piano), violinist-on-fire Maribella (Mary Rowell) & the SWARMIUS Ensemble.

On March 23rd the event was at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center’s Heikoff dome theater. The concert at the Heikoff dome featured Fulldome video and live electronic compositions together.
Visit the NWEAMO site for more specifics on the festival:

This page is an introduction to the Fulldome format that producers for the Heikoff dome will use.

Real Time and prerecorded content.
We have a very capable planetarium that can move the audience through time and space. This is essentially a 3D datbase of objects and their position and appearance that varies in time. This is not dissimilar from a large video game! In addition to the space imagery, we can put multiple images up at once and create scripts and buttons or use text commands to manipulate their size, position, color, opacity, rotation and rate of change. We can do the same thing for videos, of any resolution. Alpha channels can provide masking and transparency. Preferred file formats are PNG, TIF, Gif, MP4 and .MOV.
So, for example, I could put up 2 dome filling, rotating spirals, that changes color. Likewise I could put up a video that moves across the dome.
I can import Direct X models, and models from the Protein Data Bank. 3D Max and Maya models can also be imported and manipulated, although some attributes and animations may not directly translate.
These features can be mixed to some extent in real time, but this  requires significant programming time.

Live Interactive presentations.
Our current system does not support this sort of presentation. A Software Development Kit (SDK) requires use of Direct X, and some knowledge of C++ and the ability to write shaders.
The situation is this: the system is not a single computer &  screen, but 8 separate computers, each with 2 HD outputs,  which are all aware of what the others are doing, and what section of the screen each computer should draw.
So it’s not a matter of  video wall hardware that can takes a single 4 K image and section it into pieces, each to it’s own display.
It is instead a matter of 8 individual computers, all running the same software, with all of them communicating to each other at all times.

Delivery format for prerecorded Fulldome material:
Video: 4096 X 4096 for 4K resolution, in single frames, 30 per second. PNG or TIFF. Please use your name OR the name of your piece as a drive name, and the individual files as well.
No JPGs please! The comprehension is heinous and the color is entirely unsatisfactory!
Audio: Audio should be  provided to us either stereo,or 5.1 as  six interleaved .WAV files, or AC3.
5.1 is implemented at the Fleet as Dolby or “film format 5.1”  L,  R, C, LFE, Ls, Rs, LFE. The letter at the end determines where the sound will end up. If you have any uncertainty, just leave the files as mono, and we will combine them.

I have already created content in a rectangular format. Can you convert this to a dome filling image like one of your DOME IMAX films?
 Oh how I wish it was that easy! But you are trying to put a square peg in a round hole.
While technically I CAN just stretch that image to fit our dome, I guarantee you wont like what it looks like.  Our films and digital presentations are created from the start to fit the dome format. The geometrical distortion is unpleasant. We CAN fill the lower section of the dome, but this will require pulling an image into After Effects and applying a special distortion filter.  Here is an image of a clip going through that process.
This Fulldome plugin, from Navitar called ‘Full Dome” allows quick and easy adjustment for domes. While it may look odd on the Flat Screen you are using to view this web page, on our dome it looks good. Remember that this circle shows the inside of a HEMISPHERE, which the audience sits inside.
Note that the word NORTH at the top of the circular grid is upside down because it will be BEHIND you in the theater.
The center is straight up. The vast majority of the content should be halfway from the bottom front of the dome to the center of this grid which will be above your head.

Planning your material:
Typically content is created specifically for the dome, and so it’s aspect ratio is 1:1, The center of interest is approximately halfway in-between the bottom of the screen and the center. That center is at the zenith or TOP of the dome. So a standard head shot, for example, that fills the screen and looks great in 16:9 or 3:4  would have the forehead BEHIND YOU and upside down if simply converted to Fulldome. That’s why material for a dome  is designed and laid out  for a dome. Sadly, there is nothing that can simply convert a standard filmic aspect ratio into a decent looking Fulldome presentation. Filters and plug-ins can help if used early in the process. It’s just a geometry thing. Stretching a rectangle designed to be in front of you into a circle that wraps around you provides challenges, to say the least. Also, all 4 corners are lost, as we are projecting into a circle!

File format: material presented should be in individual PNG frames, 30 each second.
We vastly prefer the PNG file format. JPG files are compressed for file size reduction and suffer when blown up to this size.
Use separate folders for audio and video frames. Files are to be named the SAME except for the ending numbers and last part of audio files. Avoid the use of capitals, spaces and non standard characters.
IE like this:
The hard drive “masterpiece”: contains 2 folders: one for audio and one for video.


Please note that there MUST BE an UNDERSCORE between the file name and the frame number. This is very important! Most software that creates a series of frames will add this. There should always be a pad of 5 numerals.
If you need to go over 10,000 frames they should be in separate folders. This is because of the way windows handles large numbers.

Material will be delivered on a USB flash or hard drive to the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center.Attention : John Young

Reuben H. Fleet Science Center
Street Address

1875 El Prado
San Diego, CA 92101

PO Box 33303
San Diego, CA 92163

DRIVE FORMAT: Please use a FAT 32 formatted drives with NO HIDDEN files. See below or:  (*?)  Although this format has some drawbacks, it is universally read. USB 3 is preferred, but USB 2 is OK.
If you will need to have more than 4 Gigs of files, you will need to use NTSF instead.
No Firewire drives. I’m sorry too. You have no idea how much money I poured into that format myself but that time is gone… Thanks Apple!


TO RECAPITULATE: The format is 4096 x 4096 pixels per frame, 30 frames per second, PNG format, each frame sequentially numbered, no hidden folders.
Please visit and learn from the other pages I have created – This page is just a summery of the FINAL delivery format.

Fulldome Production news 1
Fulldome Production news 2
Fulldome Production news 3
Fulldome Production news 4
Surrealistic or abstract material can look OK, since it is non-representational, IE the humans and familiar objects are not warped.
See image below for a map of how video for the dome should be visualized. The dome is TILTED 25 degrees to the front, and the sweet spot where theory says the majority of the material should be is halfway between the center and the lower front. You may agree or not, but if you put a lot of action at the rear, people in the lower section will get a sore neck from looking behind them.
Of course you may use the entire dome, its just that our eyes typically point toward the front…

dome filling template

Note that the top of the image is UPSIDE DOWN and behind you when viewed on the flat screen you are probably seeing this on. You are looking INTO a hemisphere!

Examples?: Here are some:

Domefest 2012

And many more: Just search for the NAME of this format: “Fulldome”!
Like this:

To get your material onto the dome you have some work to do.
DVD, Bluray, MPG, or QuickTime  can be played in the rectangular format, but are not acceptable for most purposes. Check with the festival organizers for reference.

We intend for this to be a FULLDOME festival, so standard video will not be accepted at the section of the show presented at the Fleet.
Sound will be through our 16,000 watt 5.1 sound system, the very same one the IMAX films play through. LFE or sub woofer audio is derived from the other 5.

Redesign your material specifically for Fulldome. Remember that you are creating something to be projected inside a dome! The top of your video is behind you and upside down.
Send stills and I will put them on the dome if you want feedback. This is the only accepted format for NWEAMO.
Preparation requires SLICING, an in-house process that segments each frame into 8 pieces to deliver to the multiple projectors. This is done by our staff, (ME!) but it takes quite a long time, and is the chief reason for the early deadline.

HIDDEN FILES? “I don’t have any hidden files, I don’t think…”
If your material was put onto a drive by a Mac, then you DO have hidden file!
Here is why:

What can I do about it? Play with your tinker tool!

Please feel free to call or email me with additional questions.
John Young
(619) 685-5731


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